Staff Predictions: Penn State Men’s Hockey vs. Michigan Tech
Another Penn State team is heading to the NCAA Tournament.
After coming up short in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament to Ohio State, Penn State men’s hockey (21-15-1) will return to the ice at 5 pm. on Friday, March 24, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to face off against the Michigan Tech Huskies (24-10-4) in the NCAA Regional Semifinals.
Our staff is conflicted over how Penn State will fare in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Devon Craley: Penn State 2, Michigan Tech 1
I believe this game will be low scoring for a number of reasons. Let’s start off with the goaltending situations. Michigan Tech starting goaltender Blake Pietila was phenomenal all season for the Huskies. In 36 games, the senior registered a very impressive save percentage of .929 with a 1.99 goals-against average. Pietila is one of the best goalies Penn State has faced all year, and I think Nittany Lions starter Liam Souliere is going to have to be as good, if not better, than Pietila if they want to advance to the regional finals.
Souliere turned in arguably the best individual performance in program history in game two of the Big Ten Quarterfinals when he allowed just one goal on 55 shots in Penn State’s thrilling 2-1 overtime win over Ohio State. His 54 saves broke the single-game program record.
This game will be tough from the start for the Nittany Lions, but I predict that a third-period goal by Kevin Wall and a big game from Souliere will lead Penn State past the Huskies to open the NCAA Tournament.
Nolan Wick: Michigan Tech 2, Penn State 0
Penn State hasn’t impressed me a whole lot recently. After a great first half of the season, the team definitely cooled off in the second.
There were some ugly losses, including a 7-2 home loss to Minnesota after Penn State had two weeks to prepare. Judging from the way things have gone recently, including how Penn State did after a long break, my pick is Michigan Tech.
Michigan Tech tends to play low-scoring games and has great goaltending and defense. Although Penn State takes a lot of shots, it has trouble scoring against such high-caliber goalies and defenses. I hate to be that guy, but I think Penn State’s weaknesses play right into Michigan Tech’s strengths.
Frankie Marzano: Penn State 4, Michigan Tech 2
I’m not even going to get into the technical stuff here because I can go on forever. Long story short, Penn State is playing in its first NCAA Tournament game since 2018, and it will be the first tournament game for almost every player on the roster.
A lot of them were on the roster in 2020 when Penn State had a real chance to go all the way before the tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so I think the Nittany Lions will be absolutely fired up and ready to go in Allentown. If Liam Souliere plays like himself in goal, I like Penn State’s chances.
Gabe Angieri: Michigan Tech 3, Penn State 1
Penn State’s performance as of late is alarming, quite frankly. Guy Gadowsky’s squad is just 4-9 in its last 13 games, and it now has a matchup against a tough Michigan Tech team that has had a much better second half than Penn State. Of those nine losses, five of them have been by more than one goal, too. It’s hard to be optimistic about these Nittany Lions right now.
On the other hand, you have to remember how Penn State played in the first half of the season. This team was on fire, and if it can return to form, Penn State could make a legitimate run. However, I’m more of a “what have you done for me lately?” type of guy, so I’m rolling with the Huskies in this one.
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